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Family relieved as veterans benefits approved


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Mike Pyle (at home with his children, Mallory and Preston, in October) has undergone surgery to treat tumors in his lungs. He learned last week that veterans benefits have finally been approved. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
Mike Pyle (at home with his children, Mallory and Preston, in October) has undergone surgery to treat tumors in his lungs. He learned last week that veterans benefits have finally been approved. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)


GREENFIELD — Mike Pyle got the call he’s been waiting on for three years.

The young Greenfield family together fighting Mike’s Stage 4 lung cancer will now be taken care of financially.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized the cancer was the result of his exposure to toxins during his military service in the Persian Gulf War 23 years ago. The government will pay a monthly income for the family and all of his medical bills.

“We are so happy. Finally, finally, finally,” Mike’s wife, Krysty, said.

Speaking late last week from a VA hospital where Mike was having his second intensive surgery of the year to remove tumors from his lungs, Krysty said the financial blessing comes at a bittersweet time for the family.

Mike’s cancer isn’t going away; chemotherapy doesn’t seem to work, and surgeries will continue indefinitely.

As they continue to hold on to hope, the family remains grateful to the community for its overwhelming support and looks forward to new opportunities to give back.

Mike Pyle, 43, had already lost a leg to a rare form of soft-tissue cancer three years ago. In September, he learned the same cancer returned to both lungs. Mike began braving aggressive chemotherapy while Krysty and their children, Mallory and Preston, stood by his side.

Though Krysty said the kids struggle not being able to play with their dad, it’s encouraging to see Mike strive to be strong for his family.

“I try to keep stuff off their minds,” he said in December. “I try not to show when I’m hurting, because I feel like when I’m down, they’ll be down.”

The family’s application for veterans benefits had been held up for the last three years, even though several doctors confirmed the cancer was the result of his exposure to toxins.

The phone call last week confirmed what they’d been hoping for all along.

“He’s considered 100 percent disability homebound, and you get everything when you get that kind of rating,” Krysty said, including 2½ years of back benefits.

Krysty is still baffled as to why the approval took so long, and it’s hard to tell what exactly caused the approval to finally be made. The family recently submitted a new medical letter from an oncologist to the VA, which Krysty said could have led to the approval. It also probably helped that Congressman Luke Messer’s staff stepped in to try to speed along the process.

Liz Hill, Messer’s communications director, said they received dozens of calls, emails and social media messages about Mike’s case from the community members clearly touched by his story.

“We are so happy that the Pyle family has finally received a piece of good news,” she wrote in an email. “We wish that it could have happened more quickly, but we are thrilled with the final outcome.”

The family has been especially moved the past few months because the community has showered them with cards, gifts and prayers. A part-time greeter at The Home Depot, Mike struggled not being able to completely support his family because he couldn’t stand for long periods of time.

Krysty said the support is still pouring in, and they could definitely use the prayers. Friday, Mike was slowly recovering from surgery – the second of many that will continue as he fights the cancer.

“This is our life now,” Krysty said.

The Pyles are already talking about how they can give back to the community now that they’re receiving help from the government.

 “Honestly, I don’t think unless you’re in a situation like this, you realize how big of a help it is,” she said.

And though they still have a tough road ahead, Krysty is grateful for her husband’s strong will and selfless spirit.

“Some days are better than others, but when you’re faced with this kind of stuff, you don’t have a choice but to move forward,” she said. “Honestly, Mike’s attitude is phenomenal, and if it wasn’t for that it would be a lot harder.”

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